Fire hits largest Covid-19 hospital in Philippines, hundreds evacuate; all patients unhurt (update)

Patients of Philippine General Hospital are evacuated after a fire broke past midnight in the government-run facility amid the Covid-19 outbreak in Manila, Philippines, on Sunday, May 16, 2021. - Reuters

MANILA, May 16 (dpa): A fire struck the Philippines' largest Covid-19 hospital before dawn on Sunday, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of patients, officials said.

No one was hurt in the fire that raced through the third floor of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) before 1 am (1700 GMT), said Bureau of Fire Protection Senior Inspector Hector Agadulin.

"The fire started from the linen area and spread easily on the third floor,” he said. "The smoke was so thick, our firefighters couldn’t get inside without a breathing apparatus.”

There were no patients on the affected floor, but the smoke engulfed other floors, forcing the evacuation of about 500 patients, including 156 Covid-19 patients, Agadulin said.

The fire was put out nearly five hours later, he added.

The hospital’s emergency room will be temporarily closed because some displaced patients were moved there, said Jonas Del Rosario, a spokesman for the PGH.

Other patients are now staying at the PGH’s chapel, while others had to be moved to different hospitals, he added.

"It was a hassle because we have to move patients,” Del Rosario said. "We’re very aware that we cannot mix the patients. We have a system at the PGH to separate the Covid and non-Covid patients.”

Aside from being the main referral hospital for Covid-19 patients, the PGH also caters to many indigent patients, who sometimes line up outside the emergeny rooms from dawn.

The Phlippines' total Covid-19 caseload stood at more than 1.13 million on Saturday, with 19,051 deaths, according to the Department of Health. - dpa
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